January 28th, 2022
Volume 31 Issue 2
In This Issue of The
Wood Prairie Seed
New Wood Prairie
Catalog On its Way!
Soon to be in your mailbox! One of the remedies to
Winter cold is to enjoy thinking about the Spring
season ahead. Here in Maine we’re having an
old-fashioned cold Winter, with the trade off that our
snowfall has been only on the moderate side.
The cover photo above is one of Megan walking through
our weed-free field of Organic Seed Potatoes,
performing our regular summertime ritual of “rouging”,
the systematic removal of rogues, that is,
individual plants unsuitable for producing high
quality Certified Seed.
Right on time before the end of January – though
because it was a big crop three weeks later than
recent years – we have finished pre-grading last
Summer’s crop of Organic Certified Seed Potatoes.
It’s a beautiful looking crop!
Please be advised, we’re already beginning to sell
out of some of our most popular organic potato
varieties. Nationwide, the demand for good seed
remains very strong. We urge you to place your
orders now while selection is at its best. As
always, we’ll be happy to hold your seed potato order
in our underground potato storage until your Spring
arrives and you are getting ready to plant.
Stay warm and stay safe!
Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
Wood Prairie Family Farm
Maine Tales: Yes,
Januarys Can Be Cold. Bridgewater, Maine. Circa
January 2022 ran pretty cold
and was reminiscent of decades past when winters were more
frigid. Over the past week we’ve had a couple of mornings
approaching thirty-below-zero. The cold has been
bottoming out right around 7am. One recent morning,
according to our farm Weather Station, it tumbled down to
-28ºF (Minus 28 Degrees Fahrenheit) at 7 o’clock. It’s
been many years since, but we’ve seen -37ºF here on the
farm on three different occasions.
When it comes to cold, we benefit from our farm being
located up on high ground, 250-foot higher in elevation
than metropolitan Bridgewater which lies down in the
valley straddling Whitney Brook. It’s easy for those
living along a brook or river to be twenty degrees
colder than those of us in the hills.
Back 45 years ago it was consistently colder in Winter. Jim
was a piece-rate Cooper at Bridgewater Barrel building
Cedar potato barrels. The 'Cooper House' building
was situated on Whitney Brook's south bank. Every morning
when he'd go into work at 430 am, the concrete 'Hoop Tank'
(used for soaking hand-split & shaved Brown Ash barrel
hoops) in the barely-insulated WWII-relic-Cooper-House
would be iced over.
Old-timer Glen Lunn had dual-citizenship and choose to
reside in Canada because that availed him to enjoy
free Canadian healthcare even thou he worked over ‘on
this side’ as a piece-rate 'Nailer' at Bridgewater
Barrel. Glen lived just across ‘the line’ in Tracy Mills,
New Brunswick, along the Prestile Stream (which Whitney
Brook flows into). His commute was only a tad longer than
those who lived in Bridgewater.
Glen was also an early riser and when he'd arrive at 445
am, he and Jim would swap low temperature readings.
On a great many mid-winter mornings Jim would report -20ºF
to -25ºF. On those same mornings, Glen's streamside
readings would have plummeted to -45ºF.
The first job in the morning was to build a fire in the
huge, ancient, anything-but-airtight pot belly stove. Each
cooper had their own bottom-draft barrel-stove
plumbed into the same stovepipe as the pot belly. All
stoves sat perched on a central concrete pad. In the
process of making potato barrels, while you 'make' one
barrel, you are 'cooking' your next barrel ahead with dry
heat so that the White Cedar staves 'set' (bend)
permanently taking stress away from the binding Ash hoops
(pronounced “huups,” as in ‘Hula Huups’).
The other Coopers and Nailers would roll in between 645
and 7 am. Back in the ‘Potato Empire’s heyday, when the
demand for cedar Potato Barrels was at its peak there
would be three nailers, four coppers and four barrel
stoves going strong. Cranked out weekly were
1000 eleven-peck potato barrels. The din of many close
pounding adzes and hammers was both industrious and
Within a few hours, the pot belly stove had done its job
of un-numbing the fingers needed for grabbing nails and
its fire was allowed to peter out. The barrel stoves were
so effective at cooking the staves that if a stove was
over fed with wood - or timing was off - the staves
would catch fire inside that tinder dry wood Cooper
House. When this happened, in boisterous,
synchronized clamor, one cooper would open the front door
and the cooper whose barrel had caught fire would nimbly
swoop up the burning barrel and run and toss it through
the doorway into the snow outside. This animated fire
drill got the adrenaline running and was a regular feature
which would take place unexpectedly every few weeks.
By midmorning - in the dead of Winter - with four barrel
stoves blazing away the Cooper House would have become an
inferno. The hurried piece-rate Coopers would be
sweating as though it was haying season. Some
coopers would have stripped down shirtless to their
remaining boots, pants and tractor hat.
As the Finns have figured out, saunas cut down Winter
cold into manageable portions.
Caleb, Megan & Jim
|Wood Prairie Family
Year-in-a-Row Wood Prairie Family Farm Wins Top FEEFO
Thanks to your kind support - and your mountains of
positive and generous Reviews! – our farm has again been
awarded Feefo’s highest honor, its 2022 Platinum
Trusted Service Award. Feefo is one of the
world’s largest and most-highly-respected independent Review
platforms. Full of integrity and competency, Feefo
carefully monitors and validates Reviews submitted by
real-in-the-flesh customers who have actually made
verified purchases. The forthright Feefo platform
operates in stark contrast to the web’s epidemic of
fraudulent Reviews uncoupled from purchase transactions and
often churned out by bogus Review-mill-syndicates. When we
started our organic seed “mail order” business over 30 years
ago, we simply committed to treating our customers in the
same way we would want to be treated. We’re happy to report
that after decades of doing good business, honesty is, yes
still, the best policy. We’re eternally grateful to you, our
wonderful customers for supporting our family farm every
step of the way. Thank you so much!
Wiring Our New Wood Prairie Office.
This week with the goal of jettisoning the temporary web of
office extension cords, Caleb found the time to begin
running electrical wires into our new office. He’d already
installed the super-efficient LED recessed lights in the
ceiling. Our major building project this last year has
been a major expanding of our office and packing shed.
The new 65-foot by 65-foot expansion is a sixteen-foot-tall
ICF (Insulated Concrete Forms) building consisting of a
concrete-and-rebar-filled-core surrounded by thick 2 ½”
insulating foam. Here, Caleb is using a sharp one-inch bit
on a Milwaukee cordless drill to carve a shallow channel
through which Romex electrical wire will be run. Similarly,
holes for positioning flush electrical outlet boxes and
light switches are created by boring out the inner foam to
the proper dimensions. This brilliant system means zero air
leaks and freedom from difficult drilling into and the
weakening of the massive concrete wall.
Blowing Insulation into Office Ceiling.
This morning, our neighbor Kyle Penner and his building
crew backed up their insulating trailer unit into our new
building and went to work. In this photo, dust-masked Kyle
is dumping a bale of compressed cellulose insulation into
the powerful 220-volt-powered combo chopper-and-blower. A
flexible four-inch hose is used to convey the insulation
up to between the floor trusses atop the office ceiling.
Up top, two co-workers man-handle the bulky hose, one
finessing the insulation into place, and the other keeping
the hose handy. It’s a dusty job but relatively quick and
easy to apply the twelve-inches of seamless top-shelf
blanketing insulation. The propane heater in view keeps
thawed a weak link in the hose system during wintertime
applications. Within a few hours the entire 16-foot by
48-foot office ceiling job had been completed. And then,
dusty Kyle and his crew were on their way to do yet
And the Cold Rushes Into Maine. Took
this shot one midmorning not long ago, while under sunny
skies the outside air temp had warmed to just -8oF. We
were bringing into our underground potato house an empty
dirt hopper we use for clean up after grading potatoes.
Inside our underground potato storage it's a balmy 38ºF. The
smoky clouds develop instantly from relatively 'warm'
moist potato air hitting the cold outside air. No
thunder or lightning, though! Many years ago, an Aroostook
potato farmer friend told us he had been taught a trick by
his potato-farming-father. On the coldest day in January,
build up a big fire in the wood stove in the potato house
and once it's going strong open up all the potato house
doors to change the air. Out goes the high CO² air
accumulated from potato respiration since harvest. In
comes the clean dry high Oxygen air. Potatoes in this way
store better and Seed Potatoes have more vigor in the
Spring due to less stress.
Methods of Getting By in Maine’s Winter.
Old-timer Cooper the cat has earned his keep over the years
as one of the highly functioning barn cats on Wood Prairie
Family Farm. He's beginning to slow down with age these
days. Cooper has figured out the lair next to the
woodstove is a pretty good place to conduct his napping
responsibilities. We still heat with wood as we have
for over 45 years. We've always heated with simple and
well-designed 'Fisher' woodstoves. We started with a 'Fisher
Baby Bear' and graduated to the scaled-up 'Mama Bear' after
adding on and having more rooms to heat. When our isolated
township first got grid power 28 years ago, we quickly
discovered the value of a fan - any fan - to help distribute
the heat efficiently generated by a woodstove. If
sociologists wanted to study fanaticism they could round up
a bevy of woodstove owners, take out their note pad and then
bait them with the innocent-enough-sounding question, "I've
heard wood heat is the best heat. Is there any truth to
Caleb & Jim & Megan Gerritsen
Wood Prairie Family Farm
49 Kinney Road
Bridgewater, Maine 04735
(207) 429 - 9765
Certified Organic, From Farm to Mailbox